'A playground for other forces': Arab leaders voice concern over Iran-US tensions
- Iraq's President Barham Saleh said the country doesn't want to become "playground for other forces"
- On Monday, the USA announced fresh sanctions on key Iranian officials
- "We have witnessed enough wars and enough attacks on our sovereignty," Saleh said
At the virtual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia raised concerns over the soaring tensions between Iran and the United States. "We do not want Iraq to become a sort of playground for other forces that will kill each other on our territory," said Iraqi President Barham Saleh on Wednesday.
The statement came two days after the United States announced sanctions on Iran over its nuclear weapons programme. It announced sanctions on officials at the Iranian ministry of defence, nuclear scientists and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Iraq, which has close relations with both Iran and the US expressed concerns that the country would be used as a "playground for other forces".
"We have witnessed enough wars and enough attacks on our sovereignty," Saleh said.
Iraq has attempted a delicate balancing act between neighboring Iran, which shares the Shiite faith of the majority in its Arab neighbor, and the United States, which invaded and toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Although tensions between the US and Iran were high ever since President Donald Trump assumed office and pulled the US out of the nuclear deal, it soared considerably following the assassination of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, that was ordered by Trump.
Saleh on Wednesday hinted at frustration in Iraq with "anarchic" groups, whose rocket fire on US forces had prompted the drone strike.
"Weapons must remain in the hands of Iraqi state institutions," Saleh said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's King Salman used his address to voice concern about Iran and pointed to drone attacks last year on the kingdom's oil fields, which Washington says were carried out by Tehran in violation of the arms embargo.
"The kingdom's hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail," Salman said.
"The kingdom welcomed the international efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear program, but time and again, the entire world witnessed how the Iranian regime exploited these efforts in order to intensify its expansionist activities," he said, accusing Iran of "terrorism."
Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a bloody campaign against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, where multiple air strikes have killed civilians and contributed to a humanitarian crisis.